The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind

At the Academy Awards, it was noted that this was the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz, which was nominated for best picture and won awards for best song and best original score. The 1939 Academy Awards have long been considered to have been one of the strongest years, including classic movies such as Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach and Wuthering Heights.

But the winner that year was, of course, Gone with the Wind. It was a little peculiar that the 75th anniversary of that movie went unmentioned, even though Gone with the Wind is clearly one of the leading films of all time, receiving 10 academy awards and according to Wikipedia “becoming the highest-earning film made up to that point,” a record it “retained for over a quarter of a century . Adjusted for inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history.”

The likely reason for the omission of Gone with the Wind is that the film does not accord with modern sensibilities about matters of race, and clearly presents slavery, if not in a positive light, than in a far less negative light than it deserves. This would have clashed with an Academy Awards that conferred a best picture award on 12 Years a Slave (and two significant awards on Dallas Buyers Club).

Still, the Academy might have felt comfortable mentioning Gone with the Wind for a couple of reasons in addition to those mentioned above – to note its “feminist” portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara and to comment on Hattie McDaniel’s Academy Award (the first for a black actor).

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. dr. james willingham says

    Failure to mention is tantamount to saying that Black folks could not shine under such conditions which is exactly what the African Americans portrayed did. They manifested that spirit of their Christian Faith. During the summer of ’71, I wrote a prospectus for a doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, the aim of which was to show that slaves could and did manifest a Spirit of Faith and humanity which the appalling institution could not suppress. All during the period their creativity was being manifested, and the proof of it was that after the Civil War, the Jubilee Singers of Fiske University, some, at least, of whom had been slaves, were singing the Negro Spirituals before the royal courts of Europe and even the Whites of America would begin to sing them, too. Apropos is the fact that the theologian, Dietriech Bonhoeffer, as Eric Metaxas has pointed out, took those same spirituals back to German to inspire the Confessional Church which opposed Nazism vile ways. Additionally, many of the Black people knew the history of America and the ideals proposed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutions Bill of Rights. If some of them did not leave their Masters, it was because they cared, having learned something of the caring aspect of the Christian Faith. They imbibed the Faith to such a degree that in one instance of which I have knowledge, a church excommunicated a White member who objected to the treatment of Blacks as equals in the church. He was so incensed along with his family that they inscribed the action on his tombstone (he died of a disease after the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run in the North). It is little wonder that the Black folks would move their church membership, when they were sold from one part of the South to another. And they reproduced with their faith, what they garnered in their worship. While today’s skeptics trash religion, especially the Christian Faith they are bit more leery of taking on African American Christians, a group of people well known for their commitments to Christ.

  2. dr. james willingham says

    Line above, should read Nazism’s vile ways. Additionally, I would add that the great British Historian, Arnold Toynbee, asserted the possibility that the next awakening to faith might come through the Black folks

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